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Pauley Heart Center at 15

Initial gift spurs research, clinical care and education initiatives.

The Pauley Family Foundation’s philanthropic support has elevated Pauley Heart Center to a preeminent national leader for saving and improving the lives of people with heart disease. The journey began with a transformational $5 million gift from the Pauley family in 2006. 

Building on a history of innovation and care that started in Richmond more than 50 years ago, Pauley Heart Center has seen tremendous growth, innovation and achievement in its 15 years. Here are some milestones in key areas of impact.

RESEARCH

The initial Pauley gift helped fund a variety of new research initiatives at the center, including the creation of a Clinical and Translational Research Program in Cardiology, led by Antonio Abbate, M.D, Ph.D. the James C. Roberts Esq. Professor in Cardiology, who also served as vice chairman of the Division of Cardiology from 2014 to 2020. Abbate now leads the Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research as the medical director, Clinical Research Unit. 

Abbate and his multidisciplinary team have conducted several preclinical research studies at Pauley Heart Center and at the Division of Pulmonary Disease and Critical Care Medicine’s Victoria W. Johnson Center for Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Research, examining the role of inflammation in heart disease. This has led to pilot clinical studies funded by the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association aimed at identifying novel anti-inflammatory therapies for patients with acute myocardial infarction, or heart failure.

Additionally, the Pauley family contributed $25,000 a year to the center’s annual fund. By leveraging gifts from many generous donors to this fund, the center launched the Pauley Pilot Grants program in 2017. Aimed at early-stage research to advance heart health, the pilot grants program has fostered nine funded grants and secured more than $1 million of major research grants from the American Heart Association and other external funding organizations.

CLINICAL CARE

In 2012, Stan and Dorothy Pauley announced another $5 million gift to support recruitment efforts for the center’s first director. In addition, the funds supported recruitment of five new research faculty members, along with startup funds for research staff, lab costs and equipment. The funds also created new research programs in cardiovascular disease prevention, women’s cardiovascular health and congenital heart disease.

Greg Hundley, M.D.,  joined Pauley as inaugural director in 2018. Hundley was the first in the world to use magnetic resonance imaging to demonstrate that MRI stress testing can identify those at risk for a heart attack. To provide Hundley with the appropriate equipment to continue his high-caliber research, the Pauley family committed $4 million in 2018 to build an 8,000-square-foot cardiovascular imaging suite with state-of-the-art echocardiography and MRI technology. In the clinic’s first year, the number of cardiac MRIs performed at the Pauley Heart Center increased by 95%, preventing at least 87 heart attacks.

In 2019, the Pauley Family Foundation pledged $5 million to support the research of new comprehensive treatments for patients with cardiac arrhythmia. The gift will help VCU Health researchers perfect their diagnoses. The gift also created the Pauley Cardiology Equipment Fund, so the center can acquire clinical and noninvasive blood pressure monitoring equipment. This equipment will enable Kenneth Ellenbogen, M.D., and his team to perform a range of new cardiac procedures. The gift will also fund the creation of the Pauley Heart Center hybrid catheterization suite and will outfit an outpatient cardiac imaging facility, including an advanced cardiac MRI scanner and a CT scanner that will expand the clinic’s nonionizing radiation imaging capabilities. In addition, the Pauley family’s generosity inspired VCU Health’s 2020 purchase and expansion of an outpatient clinic facility at Stony Point, increasing the center’s care and treatment services.

EDUCATION

Committed to academic excellence, Pauley ramped up educational offerings in 2020.

Pauley’s weekly one-hour educational programs for physicians, nurses and other medical professionals allow attendees to interactively learn from rising, prominent and internationally recognized experts in the field of cardiology, including VCU Health’s own experts. Attendees may earn continuing medical education credits, maintenance of certification points or both.

A new undergraduate program called REACH (Research Experience in All-Around Cardiac Health) provides students with research experience in one of four fields of health-related science, all pertaining to the diagnosis and treatment of cardiological diseases. A collaboration between Pauley and the College of William & Mary, REACH is a two-year pilot program pairing faculty guidance from Pauley with didactic training at the Williamsburg, Virginia, liberal arts school. Similar to REACH, the Pauley Heart Center Undergraduate Research Program, a 10-week research fellowship program funded through an institutional award by the American Heart Association, welcomes students from any school to experience research at VCU. The program pairs students with faculty members and provides them with experience to conduct translational, multidisciplinary cardiovascular research.

Also new, the T32 training program in partnership with the NIH allows early-stage investigators to learn the techniques used to perform and advance multidisciplinary translational cardiovascular research. The program within the Division of Cardiology at VCU Health is designed for postdoctoral physician-scientists and Ph.Ds. Read about the T32 program in our cover story.

All of these efforts are helping further position Pauley as a leader in the field.

Excerpted from “The Pauley Family: Celebration of Impact and Service.” You can read more about Pauley Heart Center’s 15-year evolution in past issues of The Beat by visiting vcuhealth.org/pauleythebeat.

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